Friday, 16 August 2013

It’s just bad parma...

It all started with a bad parma (as most things do). I love a good chicken parmigiana; especially the big gigantic one, dripping in tomato sauce and a lusty mix of mozzarella and parmesan, with a healthy side serve of chunky chips and customary salad. However, this one turned out to be the evil twin. Although it had all these ingredients mentioned above, this one was not meant to please. Instead, it turned tumultuous once inside my digestive system.

This is what motivated me to get off meat and in the process cleanse the body of any meat toxins. I pompously announced to my wife that I will not be eating any meat for the next 6 months. This wasn't going to be a test of determination or paying obeisance to a particular fad, just a plain self-imposed task. The rules were pretty simple – no meat. Egg was permissible only because it was classified under dairy products last time I checked (although these classifications are subject to immense doubt), and in any case, I didn’t think I was eating any meat via this oval shaped protein packed beauty.
Note: People clambering over each other to prove how I got the egg idea wrong can gracefully exit this post at this stage.

I am not a voracious meat eater. I've always preferred quality over quantity. My meat-eating, could be described as social, at the best. I also haven’t eaten red meat for some years now, so cutting meat totally from my diet wasn't a huge task. The fun was trying to find enough vegetarian options, especially at lunch times.

Normally preferring a light lunch at work, I struggled to find enough vegetarian replacements, either home-made or at local cafes. I can’t see a whole lot of things that could easily replace a can of tuna on toast to start with. Same with a good serve of grilled fish. Plus, it’s not easy when the café counters readily exhibit schnitzels, bacon and eggs, roasts, but position the veggie alternatives as an afterthought. I also feel café owners/take away joints do not experiment with their vegetables much. You’d either have a hastily put (often) salad sandwich, roasted veg focaccias or some sort of cheese/mushroom/spinach pide. Over the last few weeks, I have seen really badly made fried brown rice; even leftovers would have made for a better display. I saw a few salads that probably began life as vegetarian, but the temptation of adding a few bacon pieces or shredded chicken got too much for the creators. Therefore, I can safely say that I feel for the vegetarians out there. It’s not that there are no options at all; it’s just that I feel any creativity with veggies has been stifled. It’s not just the café’s alone – since a lot of friends these days are willing meat-eaters, you often see a plethora of meat dishes make their way into pot luck, but the vegetarians (few in numbers) are often left to feeding their imagination more than their tummies. And can someone please come up with a better Paneer recipe please?

On a brighter side, this is a splendid chance for me to experiment with some great veggie and fruit combinations. A café near my workplace once offered a breathtaking couscous salad, filled in with some really innovative ingredients – pomegranate seeds, cranberries, sautéed spinach, sun dried tomatoes and nuts. This, coupled with a nachos salad (yes, such a thing can exist) made for an extraordinary lunch that day. The next day I sauntered to the café with great expectations, but the lamb and chicken had fought their way back into the salad counter. The sandwich counter was still about 90% meat, with a mixed veggie roll and a salad sandwich putting up a small but futile resistance in one corner. Soy beans have readily replaced chicken at home, Tofu has made the odd appearance in Asian dishes, and so has Falafel from the Middle Eastern kingdom. A whole lot of forgotten veggies and lentils have been resurrected in the diet, to give it a bit of a variety. Salad and soup books have got quite a few pages dog-eared in the last few weeks.

I have also subconsciously started to think about veggie alternatives every time I fantasize about a schnitzel or a hot dog. A book I borrowed from the library gave me some good ideas on places to source protein and all that meat offers, so our family shopping lists has now started looking a tad different than a couple of months back. Amongst other things unknown (and better left that way), I've noticed I tend to eat more frequently every day. I am often found snacking every couple of hours, mostly healthy stuff like nuts, fruits, but snacking nevertheless, drawing in comments such as “Are you bottomless? You seem to be eating all the time” from co-workers. Eating out with mates gorging down copious amounts of poultry can throw you off-track, but I've shown some remarkable resolve in staying true to my intent. Much as I am tempted to quickly pop in leftover chicken nuggets from my son’s meal, I've desisted.

To be fair, it’s not been too bad. I am still alive, can still breathe and am happy to admit feeling much lighter and focussed.

6 weeks and counting. See how far I go.